Solid oxide fuel cells (SOFCs) will emerge as the preferred fuel cell technology for distributed generation, following consistent research and development efforts, according to analysis from Frost & Sullivan: Solid Oxide Fuel Cells in Europe: a Strategic Review. The company suggests that SOFCs are likely to reach commercialization in Europe between 2010 and 2012 and that the market is estimated to reach about US$61 million in the first year of commercialization.

SOFCs show electrical efficiencies between 40% and 50% and, when used in a cogeneration mode, where the waste heat given out by the system is also utilized, efficiencies reach about 80%–86%. Further, when used in a hybrid cycle with a gas turbine, SOFC systems offer efficiencies of 60% and greater, says F&S.

On the other hand, high capital and operating costs are a major deterrent to the commercialization of fuel cells, as customers are awaiting cost reduction for an enhanced value proposition. Moreover, the lack of robustness in the systems reduces their performance compared to the traditional technologies. Hence, says F&S, the commercial launch of SOFC systems is impossible without a more competitive product and price offering.

‘Amidst growing concerns over security of fuel supply and emission reductions, fuel cells are expected to play a pivotal role in the future of the European energy industry, buoyed by their high electrical efficiency and favourable environment-friendly profile,’ notes Frost & Sullivan Research Analyst Hema Sarathy.

‘The stationary fuel cell industry is currently in a demonstration and product validation stage where the focus is not only on product development, but also on understanding the requirements of customers and using their feedback to enhance SOFC product solutions,’ adds Sarathy.